I’m Shivering – Either Winter is Coming or There’s a ‘Chilly Climate’ in Student Affairs

By Niki Messmore

I’ve been fortunate to have some excellent women mentors both as an undergrad at Bowling Green State University and during my masters at Indiana University. Indeed, I feel fortunate with how many women I’ve been able to work with in student affairs. But this summer I began to think about gender representation within higher education. Student affairs is a field that is predominantly female, yet many of our senior student affairs officers (SSAO) are white men (Engstrom, McIntosh, Ridzi, & Kruger, 2006).

So the question I have to ask is “Why aren’t there more women in senior student affairs positions?”

It seems strange, does it not? The field appears to embrace diversity and social justice – after all, “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion” are one of the core competencies of student affairs. So why is there a disconnect? Even from a mathematical standpoint, if there is a larger population of women within the field then one would assume that more women would be senior officers.

Is there sexism in student affairs?

I’ll be honest with you: I don’t have an answer to these musings. I think this an area that we need to discuss as a field (#SAchillyclimate, anyone?).

There is a lack of research that analyzes the lack of female representation in SSAO positions, according to Yakaboski & Donahoo (2011), but here is a starting list of possible explanations

  • Institutional Sexism: According to Acker (1990) organizational hierarchies are male dominated and the institutional structure demands conformity to male norms. Simply put, men are more likely to be seen as best representative of university leadership and women are not seen ‘as a good fit’ for leadership because they do not fit into those male norms; if anything women must assimilate in order to get promoted (Dale, 2007) – or get put into a ‘binder full of women’.
  • Retention: Dissatisfaction due to sex discrimination and racial discrimination causes women to want to leave their positions (Blackhurst, 2000)
  • Female Socialization: girls are taught to be nice and take care of another person’s needs over their own and not ask for things for themselves. This results in women not asking (or even realizing they can ask) for raises and promotion (Babcock & Laschever, 2007).
  • Not on the ‘Right’ Track: Women, through their own volition or due to the institution, tend to work in roles that do not lead to SSAO positions. For example, studies show that Black women are concentrated in student affairs roles that are directly responsible for promoting diversity initiatives (Howard-Hamilton & Williams, 1996; Konrad & Pfeffer, 1991;Moses, 1997, cited in Belk 2006)
  • Fewer Mentors: With few women SSAO, there are fewer women to mentor other women, creating a full-circle affect (Sagaria, & Rychener, 2002, as cited in Stimpson, 2009)

What are your thoughts?  Do you agree with any of these explanations? Which ones would you add? How does the intersectionality of race, sexual orientation, ability, and other identities affect the promotion of women in student affairs?

Taking it further, if you identify as a man, do you think there is anything you (or your university) does that contributes to a chilly climate for women? What have you seen on your campus?

And if you identify as a woman, have you experienced any of these challenges to promotion or know someone who has?

Please leave a comment below. I welcome you to also join me in a conversation on Twitter (@NikiMessmore) under the tag #SAchillyclimate. Let’s talk this out. I’m interested in your experiences.


**”Winter is coming” – a pop culture reference from Game of Thrones. See the meme here

I’m Shivering – Either Winter is Coming or There’s a ‘Chilly Climate’ in Student Affairs

The New Professional Life – Finding Balance (And Keeping It)

By Lauren Creamer

Not a single one of my graduate classes or experiences truly prepared me for life as a new professional.

… Okay. That’s only partially true. You just don’t know what it’s like until you live it.

This past July I began a my job in Residence Life at an elite institution that is approximately 13 hours away from my home in Rhode Island and 15 hours away from my graduate life in Boston.  I’m down here with a very limited support system and in full swing with my new job. As you can imagine (or potentially remember from your own experience), I’ve been a tad bit overwhelmed. And it wasn’t until this month began, that I finally started to get myself grounded.

Let me start by saying, that I have some of the world’s greatest frolleagues (you know, friend-colleagues). They have been incredibly supportive and great mentors throughout my transition. Without them, I would be completely lost.  

While I once would have liked to believe that I was the captain of my own ship, I’ve recently learned the following: you cannot do it alone. You cannot do it all. And you cannot forget that.

I typically work a 50+ hour work-week. It’s never less and sometimes it’s more. I answer emails all day, every day. I let my staff members text me with questions. I live where I work. I work where I live.  I continue to talk about work with anyone who will listen at any point in any day. And I’ve recently discovered just how stupid I am being. That is a great way to burn myself out in year one. So, what have I done (and what can you do) to bring back the balance?

  • Leave the office at dinner time. Yes, we all stay later. And that’s fine. But not at the expense of your own health. For the love of Pete, there will always be more work to do. Leave it and eat a sandwich.
  • Stop checking your email all night. Oh, hello iPhone, you devil, you. While it truly is wonderful to check email on-the-go, those nights where I let it charge and ignore the buzz are the ones where I am the least anxious and most relaxed. If there is an emergency, someone will call you.
  • Go off the grid on the weekends. It isn’t until I leave town that I truly feel free. No laptop. No “homework”. No nothin’.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  I think I spent eight straight weeks avoiding asking more questions than I thought were appropriate. That was dumb. It’s better to know than to assume.  Plus, everyone wants you to do a good job anyway.
  • Call your friends and family. Do you remember that wonderful invention called the telephone? Use it. Friends and family keep us sane. At the end of a long, hard day, it helps to hear the voice of someone you love.

The moral of my story? Unplug when you need to and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Since I’ve recognized the need to change in me, my mood has improved, my overall happiness has increased, and I feel more confident in my position. (And it’s a good thing I didn’t agree to write more blog posts this season, otherwise there would have been more on my plate and less in my outbox).

The New Professional Life – Finding Balance (And Keeping It)

Another Running Metaphor

By Kathryn Magura

I know, I know, my title made you groan. But I got your attention right? Well, before you close your browser, hear me out. I’ve been thinking a lot the last few weeks about why I continue to try running. I don’t like it much, and I’m not particularly good at it. Quite the endorsement, right? Why don’t I quit? Good question.

Last night, a friend of mine sent me the following blog post about why one seasoned blogger thinks more women don’t follow a career as a computer programmer. After reading that post, it occurred to me: running is my new technology. Huh? Still with me?

While I think the aforementioned blogger is misguided in his thoughts on why women aren’t getting into computer programming (as evidenced by this previous post), it got me thinking about why I never thought I’d be good working with technology – which made the discovery that I am actually very good at technology that much more of a pleasant surprise!

I never thought I was good with technology, but I never really gave it a shot until I started working professionally. Why didn’t I think I was good with it? I don’t think anyone ever told me I was bad. And I’d certainly been an early adopter of the internet, and all the fun tools associated with it, but I guess I never equated that to technology skill. I didn’t really know if I had any skills with computers or technology until I started using it and my intuitive senses took over.

On many levels, my thoughts about my running ability parallel my initial thoughts on my skills with technology. I have never been much of a fan of running, partially because I never thought I was any good at it. Granted, I never really tried much, but the few times I HAD run, I wasn’t much of a fan. Sound familiar?

So there it is, I run because I never thought I would be any good at it. Am I good runner? Well, I haven’t quit yet, isn’t that what matters? Besides, I’m not competing with the person on the treadmill next to me, I’m competing with my own inner demons and self-deprecating lies that tell me I’m no good at running. I’ve believed those lies for far too long, just like I did when I didn’t think I was any good with technology. Don’t I owe myself the chance to prove myself wrong?

Another Running Metaphor

Highlight a Woman – Make that 2!

By Kathryn Magura

Today I have the pleasure of highlighting a woman in the field of Student Affairs. As I ruminated on who to highlight, I decided to bend the rules (Sorry Kristen!) a little and highlight 2 women I have met via Twitter.

  1. Kate McGartland-Kinsella: Representing our friendly Canadian neighbours, Kate is passionate about serving students and championing for the success of other women. I had the pleasure to meet Kate last year at the ACUHO-I annual conference in Anaheim, CA, and immediately noticed how Kate is very genuine and friendly. I also think it’s possible that Kate is always smiling. Kate is a stalwart champion for finding ways to provide “PD for Free” opportunities for staff who may have limited resources for professional development. I recommend connecting with Kate on Twitter to learn how to be a selfless advocate for the success of others. Or if you liked the Sweet Valley High series growing up.
  2. Amma Marfo: Amma is a young professional whose authenticity and genuine spirit shines through in all her interactions on Twitter. Amma and I connected via the student affairs community on Twitter, but quickly learned that we have a lot in common: from a love for all things 30 Rock/Tina Fey to serving students on campus with an unwavering passion. Amma impressed me this past January when she decided to take on the “Snap Challenge” and live off of a food stamp equivalent diet for the month. If you want to push yourself past the traditional ways of serving students, I highly suggest you connect with Amma and check out her blog as well!


Kate and Amma inspire me, and I can say I’m a better person for having met them (well, Amma and I have yet to meet in person, but watch out when we do!). Who inspires you?

Highlight a Woman – Make that 2!

Blog Prompt Monday: Dinner Party with Amazing Women

By Kathryn Magura

When I saw the blog prompt for today, I was really excited:

“What 5 women throughout history would you like to have a dinner party with and why?”

Seriously, how awesome is this question? Think about the amazing fun we could have at a dinner party! As I began to think about my answer, I became a little nervous at making the right choice. Who would I choose? How can I narrow it down? What would we all talk about?? I decided to just go with my gut, and pick 5 amazing women who I would love to meet, or to have met. In no particular order, here they are:

  1. Tina Fey: I have been a HUGE fan of Tina Fey’s since her days at the helm of Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live. Tina’s quick wit, security in being a successful woman in her chosen field, and ability to be honest about who she truly is has been an inspiration to me. If you haven’t read Tina’s book, Bossypants, I highly suggest you do so now. I still want to be here when I grow up.
  2. Hillary Clinton: Confession time: I have not always been a Hillary Clinton fan. In fact, when she was running for President a fear years ago, I was a staunch opponent. Over the last few years, I am happy to say that I have developed a sense of respect and admiration for Hillary. Hillary is a strong woman, who isn’t afraid to be exactly who she is in a room full of powerful men. Hillary is a leader, a mother, a wife, and supporter to many communities. Not only am I a fan now, I truly hope she is able to run for President successfully in 2016.
  3. Princess Diana: I was always fascinated by Princess Diana as a kid. Here was this beautiful woman who survived a public divorce as a British royal. It seems like Princess Diana never got a moment of peace in her short life, and I sort of wish I could just give her a hug. It’s hard for me to believe she was only a few years older than I am now when she died.
  4. Clara Barton: Clara Barton is credited with bringing the Red Cross to the United States, and becoming a champion and health advocate for others. Apparently, I am distantly related to Clara Barton, and would love to have the opportunity to thank her for being a woman who committed her life to serving the needs of others (and see if the familial connection is true or not).
  5. Eleanor Roosevelt: When I was in the second grade, I remember writing a book report on the biography of Eleanor Roosevelt. Even at such a young age, I knew the woman I was writing about was wonderful and strong woman. What a mentor she was for future female leaders!

I could go on, but the prompt wisely asked me to pick 5, so I opted to go with the first 5 to come to mind. Think of the amazing conversations we would have at this dinner! Now your turn. Which 5 women would you invite to dinner?

Blog Prompt Monday: Dinner Party with Amazing Women

A Woman’s Right to Vote

By Kathryn Magura

It’s election day here in the United States! And while most of us will be relieved to have the daily deluge of political ads come to an end, how many of us take the time to reflect on the power of our vote? As a woman, I have not really thought much about what it means to even be able to vote. But not that long ago, women were literally giving their lives for the ability to vote.

Over time, my thoughts about voting have ebbed and flowed. I remember the first time I thought I was going to be able to vote, I was actually a day shy of being 18 in time for the election. I was annoyed because I wanted to vote and express my opinion (I’m guaranteed to always have an opinion about something). In my 20s, I became frustrated with politics, and started to think that all politicians were the same and didn’t really have my interests at heart. I was so disheartened, I considered not bothering to vote on more than one occasion. It didn’t help that George W. Bush was reelected one year on my birthday. Oh the joys of early November birthdays.

As I have gotten older, I think I have developed a stronger appreciation for the ability to vote. As a woman, I am very aware that we haven’t always had the ability to express our opinions through voting. While I have been tempted not to add my vote at times, I feel like I owe it to the women who have come before me and fought so hard for this right. I am also a firm believer that I have no real right to complain about politics (specifically politicians) if I don’t vote. What does complaining without action really get me? If I don’t like someone, I’m going to express my opinion through my vote for the other candidate.

This year marks 100 years since women have had the right to vote in Oregon: http://centuryofaction.org/. When I found this out, I knew that I owed it to the women’s suffrage movement over a century ago to ensure that my vote gets cast. It is a privilege to have this right, and one that should not be taken for granted.

So ladies, make sure you get out there and vote. I don’t care who you vote for (ok, I do. Please don’t vote for Mitt Romney), just vote! Share your voice!! And who is with me in hoping there is a Hillary Clinton/Michelle Obama ticket in 2016? 😉

A Woman’s Right to Vote

Women in Tech Profile: Alia Herrman

by Kristen Abell

One of the beautiful things about this series of posts is the fact that we can highlight women that don’t always get the spotlight – whether on our campuses or beyond. Today I hope to do just that in highlighting our web manager at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, Alia Herrman.

I first met Alia back when I started at UMKC in 2007, and she was a graphic designer for our University Communications division working with the Women’s Center on our marketing. Since then, she has acquired all the skills necessary to be a pretty kick-ass webmaster (or mistress or, as I like to think of it, Web Wonder Woman – WWW), no small feat. Alia is my go-to whenever I have any question about websites, and she has yet to fail me in answering them.

I often say that there are two paths to becoming a WWW – either from the field of design or from the IT side. To be fair, these days there are those that come straight up the middle as web designers, but they haven’t quite taken over the field yet. One of the benefits of coming from the design side is an eye for usability – if a site is simple and looks good, it is often easy to use. I think this is a particular skill of Alia’s, as she frequently keeps in mind the needs of the user when designing or working with sites at our university. She has taken us through one progression of the website, and I anticipate she’ll see AT LEAST one more in her time here.

In addition to the challenges of mastering the web, Alia has taken the time to train a number of our other graphic designers to work with web designs. She also serves as a resource to those of us still tinkering with websites throughout the university. She leads our “web liaisons” team on campus to make sure all of our websites stay consistent with standards, and she finds ways to train and develop other WWWs (and WWMs) across campus to hone their skills with web design and maintenance.

In addition to her work as a Web Wonder Woman, Alia also enjoys gaming and is known (by me, at least) to be pretty wicked awesome.

Who are some of the unsung women in tech on your campus?

Women in Tech Profile: Alia Herrman

Highlight a Woman: Clare Cady

By Kathryn Magura

This week I have the pleasure of highlighting the work of a friend and colleague, Clare Cady. Clare is the Coordinator of the Human Services Resource Center and Food Pantry on the Oregon State University campus. Clare is a recently published journal author and continues to bring the issues surrounding poverty at the collegiate level to a salient concern in Student Affairs.

Clare is passionate about helping students in poverty be successful in college. How does technology fit into this? According to Clare, we need to be cognizant of the Digital Divide, and corresponding affects it has on students in poverty.

Can you share with us what you mean by this?

I went to a graduate thesis defense recently for my friend Allyson Dean and the following quote from a student was shared, “If you don’t have access to technology, you aren’t relevant.” This resonated with me because we are currently trying to get our various subsidies applications online. If we get our applications online we will allow students to complete these forms on their own time while preserving their dignity and privacy. But what is the cost? If students are not required to come into our office, they may not realize what other resources we have to offer. We miss the opportunity to build relationships. The holistic view of what it means to be a college student is changing. When we require students to submit homework online, what message are we sending to students who do not have internet access at home, and may not be able to get to campus (due to familial and other obligations) to submit materials online? If we require students to know how to use computers, what resources do we provide them when they may not come to our universities with those skills? We offer remedial math and writing courses, why not computer skills?

How are you addressing these issues?

Last year, we applied for a technology grant through the university so we could develop these web-based applications, but were denied. Throughout the process my staff and I were hesitant to actually want the grant because we feared the potential to lose the high-touch environment the office provides to students. A student may come in to our office with the intention of applying for Mealbux, but we give them flyers for our other services, and they usually find other ways we can assist them. That is something I really enjoy doing, so we need to find a way to balance the convenience that technology can provide with the ability to engage students in need.

What other ways are you looking to utilize technology?

I am trying to start a food pantry association, so that the growing community of food pantries on college campuses can be a support and resource to each other. The fact is that professionals doing this work are disparate and usually wearing many different professional hats. I really see the best use of technology for this group is to build and strengthen our community.

Your passion for serving students who are truly in need is inspiring and contagious.

Thank you. I have seen some students struggle through homelessness and still manage to graduate. It feels wonderful to know I played a small role in their success. I know a college education will give the students I help a greater opportunity to succeed after they graduate. Finding ways to remove the barriers so they can get there is how I gain satisfaction in the day-to-day tasks. There are no cut and dry answers, and each student I help has different needs. You have to be creative when finding solutions. This office was created out of the grassroots efforts of students. I love that! The students inspire me every day.

Thank you, Clare, for being an inspiration to me and other student affairs professionals.

Highlight a Woman: Clare Cady

SA Tech Woman to Highlight: Leslie Dare

by Meghann Martinez

As a young SA tech professional I am constantly seeking women leaders in SA tech. Today I’d like to spend sometime talking about my fellow NC Triad neighbor, Leslie Dare. Leslie is the Director of Student Affairs Technology Services at North Carolina State University.

Leslie is originally from West Virginia but has called North Carolina home since 1989 with her spouse and 15-year old daughter.  Leslie’s biggest hobbies are reading and genealogy.

You can find a wealth of knowledge about Leslie here. I recently connected with Leslie and she was nice enough to answer a few of my questions.

1) What inspired you to work in technology? Was it your original plan when attending college?

Gosh, no! I was a business major as an undergrad. It’s really my experience as an RA (resident adviser) that got me back in to higher ed. I worked in banking for a couple of years, then I decided to go for a master’s (and eventually doctorate) in higher ed and have been in the field ever since.

I just naturally morphed into a technology position over time. I’m a geek, I’ll admit it.

I will say that sometimes people call me “an IT person” and I really don’t think of myself that way. I am proud to say that I am a student affairs professional, and my area of expertise and responsibility just happens to be technology…like it might be career counseling or residence life for others. (I hope my IT colleagues don’t take offense! But I do think it is one thing that makes me somewhat different from the other IT directors on our campus.)

2) SA Tech is still a novelty with few dedicated positions. With that said, how do feel the evolution of SA Tech has grown during your professional career?

It’s been fun to watch. One benefit of the novelty of the position is that we are a somewhat small community, which makes for great working relationships and friendships. I have a few thoughts about technology in student affairs — I guess you could call it my philosophy about tech in SA. I think the evolution I have witnessed is that more and more administrators in student affairs are finally dedicating the necessary resources to the efficient use of technology, instead of just letting it happen.

Also, a great benefit is that talking about tech gets you access and visibility that you might not otherwise have. My responsibility to represent our division on the technology front has opened up other doors for us as well, and I feel that I’ve been an ambassador for the entire division with the rest of campus. Given that SA folks sometimes feel like second-class citizens as compared to their academic counterparts on campus, this has been really helpful for us.

3) What role do you feel women play in technology within higher education and in the corporate world?

It’s interesting being one of the very few females in my role. The vast majority of the time, my gender plays zero role in my ability to do my job. When I think about my role as a woman, I mostly focus on how I can be an advocate for any individual who may be marginalized — whether that’s due to race or gender or sexual orientation or disability (and the list goes on!). I spent almost 8 years as our university’s sexual harassment prevention officer (yes, a very big career change from that to tech!) so I feel like I have a great insight into the lives of our students, faculty and staff who may be having a negative experience on campus. So these days I focus on ways I can be an advocate for others. I admit that I could do more on this front, and so your question is a good reminder that I need to get back to it!

4) Is there a project you’re currently working on in your division that has you excited?

There are a couple of projects along those lines. One is ramping up our asset management system. That sounds a little dull for many folks, but being able to have data at our fingertips means we can help departments make strategic budget decisions regarding technology. We’ve been trying to get away from that model where you buy new computers when there happens to be lapsed salary from a vacant position, and instead make a long-term plan to have a very clear life-cycle replacement plan. Everything flows better from there — the end user experience, and our ability to support faculty, staff and students. Not to mention a huge savings!

The other project that has me juiced is mapping out the technology needs of our student organizations on campus. We are meeting with student leaders to see what resources they are using or would like to have. Our campus does provide some services and tools to student organizations, but we could do a better job and delivering those. We also know there are several unmet needs, such help with organization websites. So I’m leading the charge with a group that includes students, our student affairs professional staff that advise student organizations, and representatives from our central technology units.


SA Tech Woman to Highlight: Leslie Dare

Women in Technology Spotlight: Amy Jorgensen

by Kathryn Magura

One of the things we like to do on the blog is highlight some of the amazing women who work in the field. As women who work with technology in student affairs, we want to take time to acknowledge some of our colleagues and celebrate their achievements. Hopefully, this will help encourage other women to follow in our footsteps some day.

Today I have the pleasure of introducing you to Amy Jorgensen. Amy is the Marketing Coordinator for the University of Florida office of Housing & Residence Education, and has a true gift for personal branding and social media. This past fall, Amy was awarded the “Best of” program at the annual ACUHO-I Business Operations Conference in Orlando, Florida for her program: “Rock Out Your Page – Make the Most of Your Facebook Presence”. Amy got her degree at the University of Florida in Business Marketing, and is currently working on a masters degree in International Business. After graduating, Amy had a brief stint working for Mickey Mouse, but Amy decided to return to her passion of working in marketing for higher education with a focus on housing.

During our conversation, Amy offered the following advice regarding technology:

“Be open and willing to learn – as you would be with other things in life. Technology can be intimidating, so you need to put yourself out there. I haven’t taken any classes on using technology or MS programs or social media; I taught myself. When all else fails, use the power of Google. Heck, I taught myself how to use Photshop and HTML via Google!“

As we talked, I could hear Amy’s passion and enthusiasm for working with technology and social media. I asked her if she had any female role models, and she said the following:

Teri Bump is incredibly motivating, and has an amazing way of leveraging technology to enhance her personal network. Ann Marie Klotz and Stacy Oliver are social media rockstars who have connected our professional community on a higher level due to technology. Liz Gross is amazing too – she has a tremendous way of staying professional and keeping content relevant and new. Liz also has a great way of demonstrating her personality and connecting to others. All these women have been tremendously supportive of other women who want to get connected via social media, and they all epitomize showing an authentic integrity in their personal brand.”

Amy also notes that her supervisor, TJ Logan, was instrumental in encouraging her to even join Twitter. “I saw TJ making all these connections to amazing professionals, and thought it would be a great way to build my network.”

During our conversation, I was reminded that Amy and I would never have met if it weren’t for social media, and our shared interest in utilizing technology to serve and interact with students. We certainly never would have spent a day at EPCOT while attending the ACUHO-I Business Operations Conference together this last fall!

So who do you see as a female leader in technology within student affairs?

Women in Technology Spotlight: Amy Jorgensen